Chef Tony Ounpamornchai has been thinking about a seafood-centric restaurant for years. As the executive chef and co-owner of SEA Thai Bistro, SEA Thai Noodle Bar and Raku Ramen and Rolls, he’s been on a roll opening one restaurant after another at Montgomery Village and Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa.
Now he’s opened a fifth restaurant, Tony’s Galley Seafood & Bar, to fulfill his briny ambitions.
The impetus came when former Montgomery Village owners David and Melissa Codding, longtime fans of Ounpamornchai, gave the Thai restaurateur the financial backing he needed to make Tony’s Galley a reality.
Open just two weeks, it’s already succeeding beyond his original ambition.
Overseen by Chef de Cuisine Hunter Bryson, the menu is a mix of Ounpamornchai’s familiar Southeast Asian flavors and Bryson’s American take on classic dishes like lobster rolls, steamed mussels, fish and chips, clam chowder and, of course, surf and turf (filet mignon with lobster).
The concept, Ounpamornchai said, is to explore seafood dishes from around the globe.
“Just like a trading/explorer ship sets sail to countries (and) its galley picks up local ingredients and recipes from each port of call, Tony’s Galley offers (a) variety of seafood adopted (from) or influenced by various culinary cultures,” he said. “From West Coast to East Coast, California to Maine, East Asian and especially exotic South East Asian, where spices are used to enhance the flavors of the seafood.”
Unsurprisingly, fish and chips is a bestseller, with the restaurant going through up to 20 pounds of rockfish a day, Bryson said. A veteran of local restaurants including Monti’s, Willi’s, Bistro de Copains and SEA Thai Noodle Bar, Bryson also is Ounpamornchai’s brother-in-law, giving him a keen insight into mixing Asian and American flavors.
Like at Ounpamornchai’s other restaurants, interior design is highlighted here, with a 500-gallon fish tank taking center stage. The outdoor patio is enclosed but features large garage door-style windows that can be opened for an al fresco feeling. Wood and tile in soft blues and purples, glass fishing floats suspended in nets and water-drop chandeliers tie the concept together.
With affordable dishes (and some luxury items), Tony’s Galley is a good fit for the Montgomery Village crowd, offering plenty of modern cocktails and small plates for younger diners.
Overall, it’s another win for Ounpamornchai and a chance to see longtime Sonoma County Chef Bryson show off his culinary chops with an approachable menu and stunning setting.
LGBLT Lobster Roll, $26: There are two essentials for a good lobster roll — a light, buttery toasted bun and good lobster. Here both are outstanding, with Village Bakery rolls made especially for the restaurant and fresh lobster. Though purists may sneer at the addition of garlic butter, mayo, bacon and tomatoes, it just works. Nothing overpowers and the pop of tobiko is the crowning jewel.
Crab Poutine, $16: Bryson said this is his favorite dish, and with good reason. A pile of crisp hand-cut fries is the carrier for creamy lobster gravy dotted with chives and bacon and capped with fresh crab meat as the cherry on top. Addictive.
Steamed Mussels, $16: A flavorful broth is key to great mussels, and the gentle heat of a light Panang curry broth with onion, fennel and garlic works here. Buttered toast is perfect for soaking up this fragrant, flavorful steaming liquid.
Fish and Chips, $18: A must-try dish. Lightly battered, crunchy on the outside with flaky rock cod on the inside. Portions are generous, and the tartar sauce with sweet onions, pickled cucumbers, hard-boiled egg and a touch of soy sauce is a standout.
Fried Calamari, $14: Served in a small sushi boat, it’s a hearty portion with pungent wasabi aioli and a sprinkling of lime leaf salt.
Crispy Crab Spring Roll, $14: The spring roll itself is mostly mixed veggies with a heap of crab meat on top. It’s a bit unwieldy to get a bite of the roll, the crab and the sauce. There’s no shame in a good cream cheese-crab fried wonton, and this dish might really sing with some simplification.
Ceviche, $16: Beautiful daily catch bites of raw fish marinated in citrus. Somehow the marinade gets a bit lost underneath, but a good mix brings it all together. Homemade chips are a nice touch but too fragile to hold the ceviche. They’re great as a crunched-up ceviche topper, though!
Almond Chocolate Cake, $10: If you’ve saved any room, this little loaf of decadent cake with raspberry sauce is delightful.
Seared Scallops and Pork Belly, $26: It’s not the flavors that are a little off here, but the construction. The scallops are perfectly cooked, as is the pork belly, and they’re an interesting pairing, both unctuous and satisfying. The kale and parsley risotto and soupy sauce, however, don’t add anything, and the stars of the plate — pork and scallops — are swimming underneath. A different plating might bring the dish together.
The Galley has a full bar, and the Sage Margarita ($11) hits all the right notes, going light on sweetness and a bit savory with sage-infused tequila.
722 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 707-303-7007, tonysgalley.com. Open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily, lunch coming soon.